The Pros, Cons, and Fixes method is one of many structured analysis tools that we use on nearly a daily basis. We often introduce this technique to clients as we try to make the decision making on projects explicit, structured, and at least somewhat rigorous – rather than the intuitive (aka knee jerk) analysis and decision making techniques that are so commonly used.

The technique is outlined below:

  1. State the problem or the issue as simply and clearly as possible. Write it down on the white board so everyone is clear exactly what the problem is. (Problem definition and restatement are also important techniques we will discuss in a future post.)
  2. Identify a set of alternative solutions to the problem. (A good way to generate this list is by a divergent thinking exercise such as brainstorming or mind mapping.) Select a set of potential alternatives to consider.
  3. List all the pros of each alternative.
  4. List all of the cons of each alternative.
  5. Review and consolidate the cons. Merge those statements that mean basically the same thing, eliminate duplications, and develop the final list.
  6. List the fixes that neutralize as many cons as possible. This is a list of solutions (i.e. fixes) or factual statements that either turn the Con into a Pro or eliminate the Con all together. This includes statements like: “If we purchase a $10,000 piece of equipment this con will no longer be an issue.” or “If we add auditing to the system, we don’t have to worry about losing information that is deleted.” [This is a very valuable part of the exercise – don’t skip it.]
  7. Compare the pros and the unalterable (fixable) cons for each of the selected options.
  8. Select the alternative where the pros out weigh the cons.

This technique and many others are fully described in The Thinker’s Toolkit.